A senior diplomat, under the instruction of the PAP government, has rebutted an article ran by The Economist. The article titled “Grumble and be damned” called on the Singapore government to relax its laws on free speech in Singapore as the government continues to threaten legal action against anti-CPF activist and opposition politician Han Hui Hui.
Singapore’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Foo Chi Hsia, argued that there is not stifling of government critics here and that Singaporeans trust their government, judiciary, police and even media. Her letter is reproduced below here:
Free speech in Singapore
“Grumble and be damned” (March 11th) alleged a lack of free speech in Singapore. Yet Singaporeans have free access to information and the internet, including to The Economist and the BBC. We do not stifle criticism of the government. But we will not allow our judiciary to be denigrated under the cover of free speech, nor will we protect hate or libellous speech. People can go to court to defend their integrity and correct falsehoods purveyed against them. Opposition politicians have done this, successfully.
You cited the case of three protesters convicted for creating a public nuisance at Speakers’ Corner. They were not charged for criticising the government, but for loutishly barging into a performance by a group of special-education-needs children, frightening them and denying them the right to be heard.
In no country is the right to free speech absolute. When this right is extended to fake news, defamation or hate speech, society pays a price. Witness the Brexit campaign, and elections in America and Europe. Trust in leaders and institutions, including journalists and the media, has been gravely undermined, as have these democracies. In contrast, international polls show that Singaporeans trust their government, judiciary, police and even media. Singapore does not claim to be an example for others, but we do ask to be allowed to work out a system that is best for ourselves.
FOO CHI HSIA
High commissioner for Singapore